Kate Rusby “Light Years”

Pure Records 2023

Kate Rusby offers another Christmas album which actually conveys some of the true spirit of the season

Kate Rusby does seem to like Christmas.  ‘Light Years’ is her seventh seasonal album and, like its predecessors, it sets itself in a wintry Yorkshire with an evocative brass band section adding local colour as Rusby delivers a set composed of traditional songs, some repurposed to serve the Yorkshire setting, interpretations of well known Christmas songs and one original.

Rusby shies away from the jingle bell laden jollity of the perennial songs which permeate the supermarket aisles from the beginning of November. She prefers to offer the listener a compendium of perfectly played songs which range from the reverential to the comedic. It’s fair to say that most Christmas albums are only dug out when the festive season is upon us but one can see the temptation to listen to this just about any time during the year just to savour her fine singing.

The scene is set on the opening number, ‘Spean’, a 19th Century nativity tale on which the brass section blow quite wonderfully and then things get finely frosty on Rusby’s own song, ‘Glorious’ which reaches to the stars over a rippling backdrop of synthesised keyboards and percussion. It captures the rapture one recalls as a youngster, whether in a church or pressed against a Christmas display in a department store window.

A light footed delivery of ‘It’s The Most Wonderful time Of The Year’ is the first glimpse of the familiar here and Rusby sings it well. She returns to this later on as she tackles a medley of ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ and ‘Sleigh Bells’ while she actually manages to deliver a pleasant version of Chris De Burgh’s ‘A Spaceman Came Travelling’. However, it’s when Rusby delves into traditional songs and adds a Yorkshire twist that she truly excels. ‘Rusby Shepherds’ (a take on ‘While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks At Night’) is a breezy banjo driven song with the brass band parping along quite excellently while ‘Nowell, Nowell’ (to the tune of’ The First Noel’) positively shimmers with a tremulous beauty. Rusby recruits Alison Krauss to sing with her on the equally ambient delivery of ‘The Moon Shines Bright’ while her setting of ‘Joseph’, a traditional number which addresses the poor cuckold at the heart of the matter, is quite delightful. Stripped back with only guitar and glockenspiel on show, it allows Rusby’s voice to shine.

There is space for some ribaldry and Rusby addresses this on a couple of songs.  ‘Arrest These Merry Gentlemen’, a song by Chris Sugden, finds a bunch of revellers falling foul of the law while the vaudevillian ‘Nothin’ For Christmas’ about a child who finds himself on Santa’s naughty list is great fun. All in all they add to the general sense of Christmas spirit which Rusby captures well on the album.

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8/10
8/10

About Paul Kerr 422 Articles
Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.
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